(CNN) -- Novak Djokovic's preparations for the French Open later this month have suffered a worrying setback as the world number two was forced to withdraw from this week's Madrid Open.
Djokovic has suffered a recurrence of the right arm injury which hindered him at the Monte Carlo Masters three weeks ago, but was apparently healed. He is still hoping to be fit for the Rome Masters which starts next Sunday.
"I am very sorry for the Madrid tournament and all the Spanish fans to have to pull out of the Mutua Madrid Open," said Djokovic told the official ATP Tour website Sunday.
"I did everything possible in order to play in Madrid, which is one of the biggest events of the year, but unfortunately my right arm injury has flared up again.
"Now I will take some time to recover and heal my injury, hoping I will be ready for Rome. I look forward to returning to Madrid next year."
The Serbian won in Madrid three years ago during his triumphant 2011 season and was looking for a repeat at Caja Magica in the Spanish capital.
His absence may pave the way for world number Rafael Nadal to make a successful defense of his Madrid title but he has also been far from dominant in recent weeks.
Defeats to fellow Spaniards David Ferrer and Nicolas Almagro in Monte Carlo and Barcelona were unexpected, but Nadal is shrugging them off.
"I've already said it several times. I didn't try to win Monte Carlo 12 times or Barcelona 12 times. Maybe that isn't normal. This is the reality of the situation," he said ahead of the Madrid tournament.
"Maybe it's normal to lose three times in the quarterfinals. Maybe what's not normal is what happened during the past nine years."
Nadal beat Monte Carlo winner Stanislas Wawrinka in last year's final and believes he can go all the way again this year.
"I'm here to fight and to try to play even better," said Nadal.
"I don't think I have to change many things. I think I can change very small things, and the change can be quite drastic and quite big. That's what I'm working on right now. "
Meanwhile in the WTA event in Madrid, Maria Sharapova continued her superb recent form as she routed Klara Koukalova in the first round.
Sharapova, who won her 30th WTA Tour title in such impressive style in Stuttgart last week, beat Koukalova 6-1 6-2.
In the women's doubles tournament, Martina Hingis rolled back the years again as she paired with Germany's Sabine Lisicki to beat seventh seeds Alla Kudryavtseva and Anastasia Rodionova in a first round clash.
They were a set then 4-1 down in the match tie-break before going through 3-6 6-2 10-6 victory.
But there was sad news released late on Sunday, with the announcement that former top 50 WTA player and British No.1 Elena Baltacha has died aged 30.
Baltacha was diagnosed with liver cancer in January, just two months after retiring from tennis and only weeks after she married her long-time coach Nino Severino. "We are heartbroken beyond words," Severino said in a statement released by her family.
Baltacha was the daughter of former football star Sergei Baltacha, who starred for Ipswich in the English top-flight after playing for the old Soviet Union.